More Must See French Towns

More Must See French Towns

France is one of my favorite countries to visit.  Wine, crepes, fashion, and shopping; what’s not to love? For most of us the mention of France brings Paris to mind.  But there is much more to France than the City of Lights!  Last week I wrote about 4 of my favorite must see French towns.  Well I decided that those four towns though superb aren’t nearly enough!  So this week I’ll write about four more!

Again the must see French towns I’m talking about today barely touch the surface.  But I’ll try to talk about some towns that I think will appeal to different interests.  So whether you’re a history buff, conspiracy theorist, pilgrim, or wine connoisseur I hope one of these towns will spark your imagination!

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must see french townsChartres

Chartres is a commune and the capital of the Eure-et-Loire department of France.  It’s located 90 kilometers southwest of Paris and is easily accessible by car and train.

This medieval town is known world wide for it’s beautiful Gothic Cathedral which features a labyrinth.  This cathedral known as the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres (Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is described as “a masterpiece…a high point of French Gothic art.”

The Cathedral we see today was built over the remains of a smaller cathedral that had burned down.  It was mostly constructed between 1194 and 1220.  It is very well preserved with most of its original stain glass windows intact.

Many tourist visit Chartres just to see this beautiful church.  Architectural fans stand in awe at this building.  But it is also a pilgrimage site.

Long before the cathedral was built the city was already an important pilgrimage site where devotees paid homage to early Christian martyrs including Saints Piat, Cheron, and Modesta, whose bodies were believed to have been tossed in the area on the north side of the church now called Puit des Saint-Forts (Well of the Strong Saints).

Chartes is also a church for the veneration of the Virgin Mary.  It is home to the Sancta Camisa, believed to be the tunic worn by the Blessed Mother at the time of Christ’s birth.  Legend has it that this tunic was gifted to the cathedral in 876 by none other than Charlemagne who supposedly got if from Emperor Constatine VI during a crusade in Jerusalem.  This legend has been disproven and it is believed that the gift from Charles the Bald and there is no evidence of its importance prior to the 12th. Century.

The cathedral has also been the setting for many books that claim to explore the mysteries of the cathedral, its symbols, and of course the labyrinth.  So it is a stop for conspiracy theorists as well.

Other than the Cathedral there are museums to visit, markets and fairs to explore, and of course cafes and restaurants to try.

must see french townsVersailles

Today Versailles is a wealthy suburb of Paris.  Located in the Île-de-France region 17 kilometers from Paris, Versailles is a major tourist destination known for the Chateau de Versailles and its exquisite gardens and fountains.

The town was founded by Louis XIV and was the de facto capital of France for over a century between 1682 and 1789.  The chateau is steeped in history having been home to French royalty including Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.

In modern times this UNESCO World Heritage site holds a place in history for being the venue where the Treaty of Paris which ended the American Revolution and the Treaty of Versailles which ended World War I were signed.  Today it is mostly a tourist attraction and is the place where the Congress of France gathers to vote on revisions to the constitution.

must see french townsThe chateau and its surrounding buildings are definitely worth the visit.  It is home to several galleries including the Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed, and the coach gallery.  You can also visit the Queen’s Hamlet and the Trianon estates as well as the gardens and fountains of course.

The gardens are amazing and vast.  There are rivers and fountains, statues, and of course trees and flowers.  I find the best way to get around the garden is by renting a golf cart for a couple of hours.  It’s fun and allows you to see more than when you’re on foot.

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must see french townsRuoen

Ruoen is the capital of the Normandy region of France.  It is situated on the River Seine 135 kilometers north of Paris.

It was one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe and was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy during the Middle Ages.  It was also where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431.

Today a simple field of wild flowers marks the place of her martyrdom and a modern church dedicated to St. Joan d’Arc stands nearby.

I’m sure a visit to this church is a must when in town, but Ruoen’s main claim to fame is it’s majestic Gothic Cathédrale de Ruoen.  This cathedral became Claude Monet’s obsession and inspired him to paint its facade in a series of 30 painting depicting it in all seasons and times.

Le Gros Horloge, the big clock in the center of town is another attraction.  You can climb to the top for some city views.  There are also several art museums, of course they feature Monet’s work, to visit as well as some really great markets.  You can also stop by to see the macabre ornamentations on the building of the Aitre St-Maclou.  This was the site of a mass cemetery during the Black Plague of the Middle Ages then turned into a boys’ school in the 18th. century.

must see french townsCarcassone

Carcassone is a fortified city in the south of France.  It is located in the Languedoc-Rousillion area of the Occitanie region.

It is known for its double walled city that is a castle.  This UNESCO World Heritage site is a popular tourist destination where one can wander around the enchanting city, walk between the walls, and visit museums,churches, cathedrals, and shops.

Carcassone is located in the middle of what used to be Cathar country.  Cathars were a sect of Christianity who believed that their religion was basically the purest form of Christian religion.  They were strict adherents of the teaching of Jesus Christ and had little faith in priests and clergy.  Of course their beliefs were directly opposite of the accepted beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church who labeled them heretics.  During the Inquisition the Roman Catholic Church teamed up with secular kings to capture and convert the Cathars and confiscate their lands.  Needless to say it did not end well for the poor Cathars.

Carcassone is a popular place for folks interested in Cathar history, conspiracy theories, the quest for the Holy Grail, and fans of the Dan Brown novel The Da Vinci Code.   It is a good place to base yourself to explore the city and its surrounding areas.  The Languedoc region is steeped in secrets, mysteries, and lore connected to Mary Magdalene, the Merovigian bloodline (the bloodline many believe to be the descendants of Jesus Christ and his wife Mary Magdalen), and the Knights Templar (you had to know they’d pop up in this region somehow!).

Located just 84 kilometers away is Montségur and its fortified hilltop château.  This castle was the site where the Cathars made their last stand against the conquering armies of the Crusades.  The siege lasted months and finally ended with many of the Cathars choosing to march into the flames rather than be captured and converted.  The stronghold built on the site of an older castle and Cathar Church is also believed to be home to many treasures including the Holy Grail.  You can walk around the hill or make the climb to the top to see the castle.

Renne-le-Château is 44 kilometers away.  It is a very popular place for conspiracy theorists and Grail hunters.  The small hilltop village is steeped in Magdalene and Merovigian lore.  In fact it’s church is dedicated to the Saint.  One of its mysteries involves the 19th. Century priest Berénger Saunière who is believed to have dug up a vast treasure (that’s one theory) or discovered some sort of deep dark secret he used to extort money from the church (that’s another theory).  What ever he did he somehow one day came up with large sums of money which he used to restore, rebuild, and build his house, the church, and the Magdalene Tower.  Other village lore say that Mary Magdalene lived there after the crucifixion and raised her child there.  Whether you’re a conspiracy theorist, a Dan Brown fan, or just a casual tourist you won’t be able to resist the mystic lure of the village when you visit.

So there you have it 4 must see French towns.  Each has something to offer folks with varying interests.  Ready to plan  your French adventure or perhaps your personal quest for the Holy Grail?  Call Savvy Nana Travel, we’ll help you build an awesome itinerary!

Must See French Towns

Must See French Towns

Ok I admit it!  When I hear France I automatically think of Paris, specially Paris in the Spring time.  I mean seriously, food, wine, art, fashion, and shopping, what’s not to love?  But there is more to France than the City of Lights.  There are many enchanting French towns that one must see.

Let’s face it Paris is amazing but can be overwhelming.  It’s always busy no matter what time of year you visit.  The museums are packed with crowds and enough art and artifacts that you’re head will spin.  And just how many days can you survive shopping til you drop?  (I can last about 3 before I call it quits!)  That’s when a visit to one or more of these enchanting French towns comes in handy, if only to get away from the maddening crowds!

French towns are as diverse as they are charming.  Each one holds a special charm that will appeal to folks with various interests.  If you’re a great fan of Impressionist artists there are French towns for you; history buffs will find most French towns are steeped in history from prehistoric times to the not so distant past; conspiracy theorists will love the “mysterious” Languedoc region; and wine connoisseurs will love sampling wines from the different regions.  So where ever your interests lie there’s a French town just waiting for you to explore!

Here are a just four of my favorite French towns to get you started.  Maybe one of them will capture your imagination enough to plan a visit!

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french townsÈze

Located just 12 Kilometers from the French city of Nice, Èze is a fortified Medieval village in the Alpe-Maritime region of southeastern France.

This lovely village is the most accessible perched villages of France.  It towers like an aerie above the coast and is surrounded by stone ramparts and crowned by the ruins of an old medieval chateau.

french townsThe towns cobble stone streets can get pretty steep, thank goodness for the handrails! Some parts of the uphill street is not for the faint of heart, it’s quite a trek.  But trust me the climb is so worth it!  When you reach the top you will be treated to a jaw dropping view of the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding countryside.

The narrow streets are lined with shops and restaurants so there’s always somewhere close where you can stop for a short break before continuing to the top.

Located 1310 feet above sea level you can visit the Jardin Exotique.  It’s a garden filled with rare succulents, typical Mediterranean vegetation, and Jean-Philippe Richard sculptures.  But most importantly it is blessed with spectacular views.  On clear days you can see all the way to Corsica!

When you’re done admiring the views, sampling the cuisine, and wandering the shops walk down to the Fragonard Perfume factory located at the bottom of the road.  The factory makes perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics and has free tours daily.  After the tour you can browse the showroom, I’m sure you’ll find something that will catch your eye, and nose!  I bought a few yellow duck soaps for the grandkids!

french townsReims

Reims, pronounced RaNs, is a very important city not far from Paris.  In fact it’s a mere half an hour away from Charles de Gualle airport.

Wine lovers and Monet fans will love this great city.  Located in the middle of the Champagne region and sitting on top of a labyrinth of chalk caves Reims is the headquarters of many of the great champagne houses collectively known as le grandes marques.

french townsThe houses of Tattinger, Veuve Cliquot, Piper Heidsieck, and Ruinart to name a few have their main offices in the city and age their champagne deep in the caves below.  Many of them offer cave tours followed by champagne tasting year round.

Many of the caves date back to Roman times and the tour is really quite interesting.  Of course your reward for walking down into the caves is a wonderful glass or two of the bubbly.  It really is like drinking stars!

 

Monet fans will recognize the Gothic Reims Cathedral.  The famous Impressionist artist painted this lofty catherdal over 30 times!  He painted it at different times of day to capture it’s glory in all types of lighting.  Aside from being a Monet favorite the Reims Cathedral was where French kings were crowned for about 1000 years.  The well decorated cathedral features many stained glass windows including those done by Marc Chagall.  One of the transept windows by Jacques Simon features a portrait of Dom Perignon the monk credited with the invention of champagne!

There are many other sites to see in this pedestrian friendly city.  You can also spend some time kicking back at one of the many cafes.  Go ahead treat yourself to a bottle of the bubbly and just people watch, I recommend it!

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Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Saint-Paul-de-Vence is then one of the oldest fortified medieval villages in the Alpe-Maritimes region of France.

This little hilltop town is known for its modern and contemporary art museums and galleries.  One can hardly walk a few feet in this village without stumbling upon an art gallery.

Many notable artists and actors have visited this old French fortress town.  Some including Marc Chagall and Donald Pleasence have called it home.  Here you will find the grave of Marc Chagall.

french townsA walk in the south side of the village will bring you to some steps at the top of which you will find the Vu (view) which overlooks the charming cemetery, surrounding hills, and the mountains.  On the west side of the village at Bastion St. Remy you can catch a glimpse of the sea.  Here you will have a view of the snow covered Alps on one side and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea on the other.

And don’t forget to check out the shops.  Aside from beautiful artwork you’ll find some unique and moderately priced crafts and costume jewelry.  I’m sure you won’t be able to resist buying a trinket or two!

french townsChenonceaux

The tiny agricultural village of Chenonceaux is in the Loire Valley.  It sits on the right bank of the River Cher which is a tributary of the Loire River.

It’s a tiny little town that has about 500 permanent residents.  Its claim to fame is the Chateau de Chenonceau one of the most photographed chateau in the Loire Valley.

The Chateau spans the River Cher.  There have been written accounts of the estate of Chenonceau dating back to the 11th. Century, but the current chateau was built over a ruined mill in 1514-1522.  The bridge expanding the chateau over the river was erected in 1556-1559, the gallery over the bridge was built in 1570-1576.

french townsThis chateau has seen a fairly long list of owners beginning with the Marques family in the 13th. Century.  It was purchased from the Marques family by Thomas Bohier (chamberlain to King Charles VIII of France) in 1513 and it was him and his wife who are credited for building the main part of the chateau.

It was later confiscated by Francis I of France for unpaid debts to the crown and upon his death gifted by Henry II to his mistress Diane de Poitiers.  It was she  who built the bridge over the river.  Upon Henry’s death the chateau was wrested from de Poitiers by none other than his widow Catherine de’Medici who added the gallery over the bridge and expanded the gardens.  And so it went from owner to owner until it ended up in the hands of Henri Menier a member of the Menier family who are known for their chocolates.

A day trip to Chenonceaux can be part of a Loire Valley excursion where you can visit one or two other Loire Valley Chateaux like the nearby Clos Lucé in Amboise where Leonardo Da Vinci lived the last 3 years of his life, and Chateau de Chambord.

These are just 4 of my favorite French towns.  Check back for more French towns that I love.

Ready to plan your French getaway?  Call Savvy Nana Travel where travel is our passion!

 

 

 

5 Unique Activities  to Really Experience France

5 Unique Activities to Really Experience France

France

So you’re heading to France, yay!  That’s one more place to cross off the bucket list right?

But is that all a trip to France is all about?  Is all you want are a few selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower, a mind numbing tour of the Louvre and the D’Orsay, and perhaps a glass of wine and a crepe?  If it is then travel on and good luck!  But if you’re looking for ways to really experience France then read on.

Of course you should visit the Louvre and the D’Orsay and any of the many museums you want in Paris and believe me Paris is not lacking in museums!  And by all means take your photo in front of the Eiffel Tower and do all the touristy things one expects to do in Paris.  But for a truly unique experience in France try at least one of these activities; I promise you won’t regret it; and it will be memorable!

 

Eiffel Tower Dining

Don’t just climb up the Eiffel Tower, take the time to dine at one of the restaurants located in the tower.

There are several restaurants, bars, and shops in the tower that should suit everyone’s taste and budget.  Treat yourself to seasonal french cuisine at The 58 Eiffel Tower located on the first floor.  This is where you can have an upscale picnic lunch or chic bistro dining.  Or indulge yourself at The Jules Verne located on the second floor Michelin starred chefs offer mouth watering gourmet cuisine.  For smaller budgets check out the buffets for fine quality snacks they are located on the esplanade and the first and second floors.  Or you can have a drink or two at the Champagne Bar located on the top where you can enjoy unparalleled views of the city.

The restaurants require reservations or tours.  Contact Savvy Nana to help you plan your Eiffel Tower dining experience.

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Up, Up, and Away! For a truly memorable experience float above the French countryside in a hot air balloon,  Enjoy a bird’s eye view of palaces, gardens, farms, villages, and chateaux as you gently glide over Fountainbleu or the Loire Valley in a colorful balloon.

Sunrise and Sunset rides are offered and depart from various locations around the country.

Contact Savvy Nana to help you plan your hot air balloon ride in France!

 

Historic Champagne Cave Tour & Tastings

Many champagne houses located in the Champagne region of France offer cellar or cave tours and champagne tastings; in fact some offer their tours free of charge.  But there are only a handful of Champagne houses that store their bubbly in historic chalk caves that date back to the 4th. Century and even fewer still that rests on the property of a 13th. Century abbey as well.  (There’s only one that fits both descriptions, Tattinger!)

Rest assured that these historic champagne caves now designated historic monuments and UNESCO heritage sites are worth the visit.  Not only will you learn the history of the sparkling drink and how it’s made, at the end of the tour you  get to sample this lofty beverage too!

Even if you’re not a champagne drinker one sip of this glorious drink straight from the caves will turn you into a big fan.  Like Dom Perignon, the 17th. century monk whose contributions are important to the production and quality of the bubbly, supposedly said when he took his first sip “I am tasting the stars!”  Fine French champagnes is really like tasting stars!

Contact Savvy Nana to plan your historic champagne cave tour and tasting!

French Pastry Making Class

France is known for its delicious french pastries, specially macaroons and puff pastry.  So indulge your sweet tooth and learn how to make delicious french pastries from master pastry chefs in and around Paris.  Take a macaroon or pastry making class taught by a master chef or at one of the famous patisseries in town like Laduree.

Of course the best part of the class is tasting your creations!  Contact Savvy Nana to plan your pastry making adventure in France!

Market Days

As in most of Europe Market Days in France are a way of life.  Most of the locals use the open air markets to shop for much of their daily needs like fresh fruits and veggies, fresh meat and poultry, and so much more.

Most markets are held in the town’s main squares where all sorts of vendors set up stalls to display their wares.  In many towns vendors have schedules and set up specific days for instance Mondays could be for food vendors, Wednesdays for general merchandise, and Saturdays for antiques, books, and other collectables.   Check with your hotel or on line for the market schedules in the towns you’ll be visiting.

If you’re lucky enough to be in France during the Christmas season be sure to wander around the Christmas Markets, many of the larger ones are in the Northern region not far from the German border.  These markets are huge events that have rides, shows, food kiosks, and of course handicrafts for sale.

Ready to plan your vacation in France?  Call Savvy Nana for custom itineraries!

 

 

 

 

3 Reasons to Sail Around Europe

3 Reasons to Sail Around Europe

Europe

It is without a doubt that Europe is one of the most beautiful continents in the world. The continent is a haven for sailing, from the beautiful scenery to its historical richness, Europe is a continent oozing of natural beauty. There are also many glamorous sailing destinations to choose from.

If sailing around your Europe is part of your bucket list, then check out SailingEurope.com for amazing deals and packages. We help to make the decision to cross it out from the list sooner rather than later. Here are some of the top three reasons why you should definitely look forward to sailing around Europe.

Europe

1. Beautiful Sailing Destinations

When deciding to sail around Europe, you will be spoilt for choice with the many beautiful destinations to choose from. Depending on your preference and budget, to mention but a few, here are a couple of destinations you can choose from.

I.            French Riviera, France – This is one of the most beautiful sailing destinations in the world. You will be treated to the Celebrity Haunt Saint-Tropez, Coastline stopping off the Cannes and the Millionaire Playground.

II.            Ionian Island, Greece – This would be a great place to begin with sceneries such as whitewashed beautiful villages, traditional taverns, and rugged mountains

III.            The Dalmatian Coast, Croatia – Offers beautiful sun-soaked beaches, rich cultures from the beautiful traditional way of life of the people and hidden coves

IV.            Sporades Islands, Greece – Located in the East Coast, you get to sail through the beautiful Islands with rich vegetation, maintained green-blue waters and experience the people’s traditional rich cultures.

V.            Bay of Naples, Capri and Amalfi Coast, Italy – If you are a lover of wine and great traditional food, this is the place to start. You will also experience beautiful sunny shores, towns, and Isles.

Europe2.   Multiple Destinations Immersion

Imagine hanging out in the Volcanic Island of Ischia in the morning, wine tasting in Montalcino, Mecca in the afternoon and an intimate setting to recharge from a long day of discovery in the evening as you sail through to the next destination. This is most definitely possible when sailing through Europe. You are exposed to multiple destinations and cultures to choose from and experience at your leisure.

Europe3. Exposure to Many Different Cultures

 

Europe is a fairly large continent with 50 countries and numerous ports. It is, however, small enough to sail around. Every destination you chose offers a different experience from the people and their way of life to the food and drinks. You get to learn and appreciate the different traditions set by the locals and passed from generation to generation. You will get to learn new expressions, experience foreign languages and visit some of the famous cultural places like Ireland. All these aspects will bring you one step closer to all the great and beautiful things in the world and also influence you positively to appreciate the different ways of life.

Well, there you have it. All that is left now is for you to get your traveling gear ready, choose your first sailing destination in Europe and you are good to go.

 

Five Exceptional Adventures For Those Traveling Solo

Five Exceptional Adventures For Those Traveling Solo

Beyond The Box

The first thing you need to figure out if you’re traveling solo regards your means of travel, and the “when”. It is December the 14th as of this writing. In about three or four days, Holiday commuters will clog roadways, airports, bus stations, and trains—in a lot of places this is happening already. If you don’t plan in advance, you could find yourself in the lurch—here are five holiday traveling tips.

 

Once you’ve got your travel ironed out, it’s time to look at how you’re transporting your goods. If you’re traveling internationally, eliminate the hassle of baggage through https://www.unibaggage.com; according to the site, they can: “…arrange a collection of your excess baggage and deliver your belongings anywhere in the world with full online tracking; from Australia to [the] UK, or France to [the] USA.”

 

All the details figured out, now it’s time to think about some possible travel adventures for the solo traveler which can be downright exhilarating!

 

 

1: Live Where You Roam

Of course, today many people avoid air travel, but you can always go by sea if you like! Something really popular now involves bringing your “room and board” with you—via RV. You don’t have any luggage considerations then, and you do grow to be pretty savvy of traffic over time. It’s a perfect way to spend a year if you can budget it.

 

You get to travel where you wish, do what you want, meet who you want, see what you like, and have all manner of crazy adventures. Especially if you play an instrument, or are some kind of performer, you can find all kinds of exciting opportunities and communities wherever you go.

 

This itself is an adventure! And you can find an RV for cheap. If you can budget $14k plus food and gas, you can do it for a year pretty successfully. That will cover the total cost of a cheap, late-model RV (1970 – 1990), repairs, taxes, and the occasional “oops”.

 

2: For Those Who Fly…

However, not everyone has that kind of luxury in terms of conveyance or time, and often folks must maximize their leisure shortly. What can be a great thing to do is to shoehorn in some “bucket list” adventures, like chartering a private jet!

 

For example, there’s private jet charter services by Stratos Jet Charters. You can travel to some unique locale not really accessible any other way—this is an increasingly common mode of travel; according to the site: “Today, people who fly on private jets have more choices than ever when it comes to charter brokers. Where there were once just a handful of us, now there are dozens.”

 

3: Natural Exploration

Anywhere you go will have some exceptional natural feature worth seeing. You may find some wonders are more wondrous than others—get in the habit of checking something out geographically whenever you’re traveling solo, though. This can be quite exciting.

For example, have you been up and down the West Coast at all? Did you check out the Redwoods? That experience is downright spiritual. It’s a must for any avid traveler at least once.

 

4: Cultural Exploration

Get off the tourist strip and downtown for some nightlife every once in a while. Go on a Friday and you’ll stumble into live shows, karaoke, and stimulating conversation that can lead to further activities with new friends. Be careful, of course—but you can really get into some intrigue, and learn how those in differing places truly live!

 

5: Architectural Wandering

Have you ever been in a big city, seen all the big buildings, and wondered what they looked like inside? Well…why don’t you go check? You can actually explore a lot of large buildings simply by walking in and looking around. Granted, you can get in trouble this way, too—think it through before you do anything! But for exhilaration, you can definitely find some highlights. Many buildings will let you check out the roof, if you ask the right people. Other times, there’s a public route to do the same. Google it to give yourself some direction.

 

New Experiences

The point of travel is to find something new, and adventurous. It’s to learn, it’s to broaden your horizons. So above all, hit the road with two things foremost in your mind: strategic self-preservation, and an openness that is willing to explore.

 

 

 

5 Day Trips From Paris

5 Day Trips From Paris

There’s no doubt Paris is a gorgeous city with lots of sites to see and many things to do.  You could spend weeks and months wandering the city’s lovely streets and still not see it all.  But there’s lots to see and do outside of the city, so if you have extra time or just want to get away from the city for a few hours you might  consider some day trips from Paris.

You don’t have to wander far, there are several places you can explore just an hour or so away.  Here are 5 day trips from Paris that might help you plan your next vacation.  If you can’t find the time for all of them that’s okay, it might just inspire you to return to![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Day trips from Paris1. Chateau de Versailles  and its gardens are one of the most popular attractions outside Paris is located in the wealthy suburb of Versailles.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is about an hour away.  It’s very accessible by train, coach, or private car.

Built by Louis XIV, the Sun King, in the later part of the 19th. century Versailles was once the seat of political power in France.  It’s a beautiful palace which many of us associate with Marie Antoinette one of the palace’s most notable residents.  Versailles has definitely played it’s part in French and world history.   It was in its Hall of Mirrors that the Treaty of Versailles was signed and effectively ended World War I between German and allied forces.  Today it’s a major tourist destination.  It houses a museum of French history and art exhibits.  It is also used in modern political functions, most recently Persident Hollande’s speech given there to a rare joint session of Parliament shortly after the 2015 Paris attacks.  Learn more about Versailles here!

Day trips from Paris2.  Chateau de Fontainebleau is just over 55 kms. from Paris.  It is located in the town of Fontainebleau a commune in the metropolitan area of Paris.  It is easily accessible by TER train from the Gare-de-Lyon.

The Chateau which once belonged to the kings of France along with its surrounding forest is a favorite weekend get-away for many Parisians.

Today the Chateau is open to the public and is home to 4 museums with a great collection of art masterpieces.  It is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

It’s also the launching point for France Montgolfiere a hot air balloon company.  It’s one of the best ways to experience this part of the country!  Learn more about Fontainebleau and hot air ballooning here!

3.  Chateau de Chenonceau is a bit further afield.  It’s about a 3 hour drive or 2 hour train ride away from the capital.  Arguably the most visited of the Loire Valley Chateaux and the second most visited chateaux in France,  Chenonceau is a beautiful palace.  Spanning the Cher River this palace was once home to Cathrine de Medici the Queen of France when she married Henry II.

This Chateau built in the early 16th. century played many roles through out history.  It was here that Mary Queen of Scots married Cathrine de Medici’s son Francis II.

It is also France Montgolfiere’s launching point for their Loire Valley balloon rides.

Learn more about Chenonceau here! [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]Paris Tours

 

 

 

 

 

day trips from Paris4.  Chartres the capital city  of Eure-et-Loire department of France is located 96 kms from Paris.  It is known for its cathedrals, most notably the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This Cathedral is famous for its stained glass windows whose blue color is unique and called “bleu de Chartres.  It is not known how this particular colored glass was created but it has not been replicated to date.

The Cathedral offers tours of the church itself as well as its crypts.  It’s definitely worth a visit.

There are other notable churches and museums in this city, as well as its markets.  Chartres is a major market town of the Beauce region of France  which is also known as the “granary of France.”

It’s a delightful town that is easily reached by train.  There are frequent trains between Chartres and Paris Montparnasse station.  The train ride takes about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes depending on the train.  Round trip tickets cost about €30 per person. [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

day trips from Paris5.  Reims  is the main city  of the  Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine region of France is 129 kms from Paris.

Founded by Gauls 2000 years ago Reims was a very important city of the Roman Empire.  It played a major role in imperial French history where for over 1000 years most of France’s kings were crowned there.  Today Reims is the center of the champagne industry.

day trips from ParisThere are many things to see and do in Reims.  Its most famous attraction is the Gothic style Cathédrale Notre Dame de Reims.  It is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims and where the French kings were crowned.  It’s a beautiful cathedral complete with flying buttresses, vaulted naves, towers, and stained glass windows.  Tours of the cathedral are available, you can buy the tickets from the Palais du Tau entrance store across the street.

The Palais du Tau right next to the cathedral was the palace of the Archbishop of Reims.  It played a major role in French history.  It was in this palace that the kings of France resided before their coronation; here that they dressed for their coronation at the cathedral nearby; and here where coronation banquets were held.

The Basilique Saint-Remi was the church of the Abbey of Saint-Remi.  It has housed the relics of Saint Remi the Bishop of Reims since 1099. The cathedral, palace, and abbey are all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

As I mentioned earlier Reims is the center of the champagne industry.  The city is surrounded by vineyards and chalk caves both integral components in the making of this sparkling wine.  Did you know that only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France using only specific grapes grown there can be called Champagne?  Yes it’s true, sparkling wines made in other regions can not bear the Champagne designation, they must be labeled as Sparkling Wine!

day trips from parisHaving said this it’s safe to assume that the city is home to many of the famous Champagne Houses.  You’d be right of course.  The city and surrounding area is home to Veuve Cliquot, Martel, Mumm, Taittinger to name a few.  Many of them are open to the public and have guided tours and tastings.

We went to Taittinger which is located in the heart of the city.  It was a fascinating tour!  The tour goes thru the 4th. century chalk mines which serve as their cellars.  Their mines by the way are  listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On the tour you will learn how champagne in made.  Very intersting.  The best part of the tour is the champagne tasting!

Tour prices start at €17 per person depending on the how many types of champagne you want to taste.

In my opinion definitely worth the price of admission.  The bubbly were lovely!

Other sights in Reims include museums, churches, and squares.  It’s a lively town with many shops, markets, cafes, and restaurants.

Reims is easily accessible by train, car, or coach from Paris.  You can book day tours from many local companies if you don’t want to venture out on your own.  To get to Reims from Paris from the Gare de l’Est station.  Trains leave every 40 minutes from 6:30 am to 10:30 pm. The train ride is 40 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on the train you take.   A round trip ticket cost €30 per person.

If you will be in Paris for a week or so and would like to take day trips around the city you may want to consider purchasing a rail pass before you leave home.  The day trips listed here can all be reached by trains that are included in the rail pass.  Compare prices of point to point tickets vs. rail pass before you buy anything.

Depending on your destination sometimes buying point to point tickets are less expensive.  But the major advantage of passes in my opinion is convenience.  You don’t have to buy train tickets each time you want to go somewhere, just hop on a train and show the conductor your pass and ID.  You also won’t have to validate your pass each time you hop a train as you would have to do with point to point tickets.  Validating tickets isn’t a big deal, just one more thing to remember to do.  If your ticket isn’t validated you could find yourself paying a hefty fine.